GREEN BAY—A few years ago, Demetri Goodson had his eye on the NBA.
A two-year starter on the Gonzaga University basketball team, the point guard made a name for himself by hitting a last-second layup to propel Gonzaga past Western Kentucky and into the Sweet 16 in 2009.
But when Goodson realized that making it as a 6-foot point guard in the NBA was pretty unlikely, he transferred to Baylor to make a go of it as a cornerback in football, the sport his older brother Mike played as a pro, as a running back for the Panthers, Raiders and Jets.
Fast forward through two season-ending injuries and an extra medical redshirt year thanks to the NCAA, and Goodson was drafted on Saturday by the Packers in the sixth round with the 197th overall pick.
“It really wasn’t too hard,” Goodson said of switching back to football after roughly six years away from the sport, having not played it since his sophomore year in high school.
“I’ve always been blessed to be able to play both sports. The hardest thing I’d say with the switch was my knowledge of the game and just getting my football body back, putting on more weight, stuff like that.”
Goodson said it was actually more his father, rather than his brother, who encouraged him to go with football. Goodson visits his father twice a month in prison, where he is nearly one-third of the way through a 27-year conviction for mortgage fraud.
Goodson’s path in football wasn’t exactly smooth either. An ankle injury in 2011 required surgery and then a broken arm ended another season prematurely in 2012. Granted another year of eligibility in 2013, he came back to earn honorable mention All-Big 12 honors, intercepting three passes and breaking up 16.
All the medical issues never led him to second-guess his decision, though, or to consider another future.
“I put all the marbles into football,” he said. “I didn’t care if I pulled my leg off, I was going to make it some way, somehow. The injuries just made me tougher.”
Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. sees some of that toughness in Goodson’s tackling, though there’s room for improvement with that skill.
What matters most to Whitt is that he’s a “willing tackler” at the corner position.
“The thing I look for is will he go put his face in there? He will, and as long as they will, you can correct any other issues,” Whitt said.
Given Goodson’s background, he’ll be another project for Whitt, who helped continue the conversion of the undrafted Sam Shields from receiver to corner when he came to the Packers in 2010.
“I like it,” Whitt said of these kinds of coaching challenges. “There are not a lot of bad habits you have to erase. What you get, if you do it the right way, they are what you coach. You’re not coaching anything out of them.”
Whitt added that some defensive principles in basketball, particularly for point guards, translate to a cornerback in the NFL lining up across from a wide receiver. That’s been a starting point for Goodson, who brings additional athletic traits as well.
“I don’t know how raw he is, but he’s real instinctive,” Whitt said. “The things I saw on film were his ability to stick to his guy. He’s really competitive, fights to the end on every play, trying to get the ball out. Those are things we can add to the defense and excite me about his game.”
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